ROMANOV FAMILY PETS: THE ELEPHANT
One of numerous criticisms by St. Petersburg society of the last ruling Romanov family was what they perceived as their frivolous waste of money. An example used was often the very costly upkeep of the pet elephant at Tsarskoe Selo, which cost the Russian imperial treasury a whopping 18, 000 rubles annually – a very significant sum at that time.
As a point of reference, the income of an average Russian citizen in early 20th century was about 4,300 rubles per year.
Visiting the elephant was obligatory as part of the education for every Romanov grand duke. Tsar Nicholas II himself loved to bathe the elephant, and he even repeatedly recorded his visits to the elephant in his diary.
For example, in a diary entry from 9 June, 1914 he wrote: “I brought Alexei’s elephant to our pond and we had such fun watching it swim.”
The first Tsarskoe Selo elephant appeared in early 19th century, but due to lack of proper conditions for the animal it soon died. Later on, an Eastern ruler gifted another elephant to the imperial children – and it was housed in a specially constructed Indian Elephant Pavilion in the Alexander Park.
This elephant was very good-natured and earned affection among all his visitors, the only complaints were from the park ranger – that the animal eats 2 pounds of wheat pancakes fried in pure butter daily!
Unfortunately the last Romanov family pet elephant shared the same tragic fate as his imperial owners: he was shot by the revolutionary soldiers in 1917… The animal may have been shot not out of cruelty but to save it from a painful death from starvation.